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Flag of Jamaica
Map of Jamaica
Introduction Jamaica
The island - discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1494 - was settled by the Spanish early in the 16th century. The native Taino Indians, who had inhabited Jamaica for centuries, were gradually exterminated, replaced by African slaves. England siezed the island in 1655 and a plantation economy - based on sugar, cocoa, and coffee - was established. The abolition of slavery in 1834 freed a quarter million slaves, many of which became small farmers. Jamaica gradually obtained increasing independence from Britain, and in 1958 it joined other British Caribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica gained full independence when it withdrew from the federation in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence as rival gangs created by the major political parties evolved into powerful organized crime networks involved in international drug smuggling and money laundering. The cycle of violence, drugs, and poverty has served to impoverish large sectors of the populace. Nonetheless, many rural and resort areas remain relatively safe and contribute substantially to the economy.
Geography Jamaica
Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba
Geographic coordinates:
18 15 N, 77 30 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 10,991 sq km
land: 10,831 sq km
water: 160 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Connecticut
Land boundaries:
0 km
1,022 km
Maritime claims:
measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin
tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior
mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m
Natural resources:
bauxite, gypsum, limestone
Land use:
arable land: 15.83%
permanent crops: 10.01%
other: 74.16% (2005)
Irrigated land:
250 sq km (2002)
Natural hazards:
hurricanes (especially July to November)
Environment - current issues:
heavy rates of deforestation; coastal waters polluted by industrial waste, sewage, and oil spills; damage to coral reefs; air pollution in Kingston results from vehicle emissions
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for the Panama Canal
People Jamaica
2,758,124 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 33.1% (male 464,297/female 449,181)
15-64 years: 59.6% (male 808,718/female 835,394)
65 years and over: 7.3% (male 90,100/female 110,434) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 23 years
male: 22.4 years
female: 23.5 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.8% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
20.82 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
6.52 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
-6.27 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 15.98 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 16.66 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 15.27 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 73.24 years
male: 71.54 years
female: 75.03 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.41 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
1.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
22,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
900 (2003 est.)
noun: Jamaican(s)
adjective: Jamaican
Ethnic groups:
black 90.9%, East Indian 1.3%, white 0.2%, Chinese 0.2%, mixed 7.3%, other 0.1%
Protestant 61.3% (Church of God 21.2%, Seventh-Day Adventist 9%, Baptist 8.8%, Pentecostal 7.6%, Anglican 5.5%, Methodist 2.7%, United Church 2.7%, Jehovah's Witness 1.6%, Brethren 1.1%, Moravian 1.1%), Roman Catholic 4%, other including some spiritual cults 34.7%
English, patois English
definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total population: 87.9%
male: 84.1%
female: 91.6% (2003 est.)
Government Jamaica
Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Jamaica
Government type:
constitutional parliamentary democracy
name: Kingston
geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 76 48 W
time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
14 parishes; Clarendon, Hanover, Kingston, Manchester, Portland, Saint Andrew, Saint Ann, Saint Catherine, Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Saint Mary, Saint Thomas, Trelawny, Westmoreland
note: for local government purposes, Kingston and Saint Andrew were amalgamated in 1923 into the present single corporate body known as the Kingston and Saint Andrew Corporation
6 August 1962 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 6 August (1962)
6 August 1962
Legal system:
based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Kenneth O. HALL (since 15 February 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Portia SIMPSON-MILLER (since 30 March 2006)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition in the House of Representatives is appointed prime minister by the governor general; the deputy prime minister is recommended by the prime minister
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (a 21-member body appointed by the governor general on the recommendations of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition; ruling party is allocated 13 seats, and the opposition is allocated eight seats) and the House of Representatives (60 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 16 October 2002 (next to be held no later than October 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - PNP 52%, JLP 47.3%; seats by party - PNP 34, JLP 26
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister); Court of Appeal
Political parties and leaders:
Jamaica Labor Party or JLP [Bruce GOLDING]; People's National Party or PNP [Portia SIMPSON-MILLER]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
New Beginnings Movement or NBM; Rastafarians (black religious/racial cultists, pan-Africanists)
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Gordon SHIRLEY
chancery: 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 452-0660
FAX: [1] (202) 452-0081
consulate(s) general: Miami, New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Brenda LaGrange JOHNSON
embassy: Mutual Life Building, 2 Oxford Road, 3rd floor, Kingston 5
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [1] (876) 929-4850 through 4859
FAX: [1] (876) 935-6001
Flag description:
diagonal yellow cross divides the flag into four triangles - green (top and bottom) and black (hoist side and outer side)
Economy Jamaica
Economy - overview:
The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services, which now account for 60% of GDP. The country continues to derive most of its foreign exchange from remittances, tourism, and bauxite/alumina. Jamaica's economy, already saddled with a record of relatively low growth, was hit hard by Hurricane Ivan in late 2004, and is making a gradual recovery. But the economy faces serious long-term problems: high interest rates, increased foreign competition, exchange rate instability, a sizable merchandise trade deficit, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a high debt burden - the result of government bailouts to ailing sectors of the economy, most notably the financial sector in the mid-1990s. Following a strategy begun in 2004, Jamaica has reduced its public debt to 130% of GDP. Inflation has declined to 9%. Uncertain economic conditions have led to increased civil unrest, including gang violence fueled by the drug trade. The government faces the difficult prospect of having to achieve fiscal discipline in order to maintain debt payments while simultaneously attacking a serious and growing crime problem that is hampering economic growth.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$12.71 billion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$8.579 billion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.7% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$4,600 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.3%
industry: 33.9%
services: 60.8% (2006 est.)
Labor force:
1.197 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 19.3%
industry: 16.6%
services: 64.1% (2004)
Unemployment rate:
11% (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line:
19.1% (2003 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.7%
highest 10%: 30.3% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
37.9 (2003)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
9.1% (2006 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
30.8% of GDP (2006 est.)
revenues: $3.302 billion
expenditures: $3.564 billion; including capital expenditures of $180.4 million (2006 est.)
Public debt:
129.7% of GDP (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products:
sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, yams, ackees, vegetables; poultry, goats, milk; crustaceans, mollusks
tourism, bauxite/alumina, agro processing, light manufactures, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products, telecommunications
Industrial production growth rate:
-2% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production:
6.913 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 96.8%
hydro: 1.8%
nuclear: 0%
other: 1.4% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
6.429 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2004)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2004)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - consumption:
71,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
NA bbl/day (2001)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Current account balance:
$-970 million (2006 est.)
$2.087 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:
alumina, bauxite, sugar, bananas, rum, coffee, yams, beverages, chemicals, wearing apparel, mineral fuels
Exports - partners:
US 25.8%, Canada 19.3%, UK 10.7%, Netherlands 8.6%, China 7%, Norway 6.4%, Germany 5.6% (2005)
$4.682 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:
food and other consumer goods, industrial supplies, fuel, parts and accessories of capital goods, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials
Imports - partners:
US 41.4%, Trinidad and Tobago 14%, Venezuela 5.5%, Japan 4.6% (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$2.15 billion (2006 est.)
Debt - external:
$7.384 billion (2006 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$18.5 million; note - US aid only (2004)
Currency (code):
Jamaican dollar (JMD)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Jamaican dollars per US dollar - 65.9329 (2006), 62.51 (2005), 61.197 (2004), 57.741 (2003), 48.416 (2002)
Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March
Communications Jamaica
Telephones - main lines in use:
342,000 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
2.7 million (2005)
Telephone system:
general assessment: fully automatic domestic telephone network
domestic: NA
international: country code - 1-876; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); 3 coaxial submarine cables
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 10, FM 13, shortwave 0 (1998)
1.215 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
7 (1997)
460,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
1,402 (2006)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
21 (2000)
Internet users:
1.067 million (2005)
Transportation Jamaica
35 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 5 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 24
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 22 (2006)
total: 272 km
standard gauge: 272 km 1.435-m gauge
note: 207 of these km belonging to the Jamaica Railway Corporation had been in common carrier service until 1992 but are no longer operational; 57 km of the remaining track is privately owned and used by ALCAN to transport bauxite (2003)
total: 20,996 km
paved: 15,386 km (including 33 km of expressways)
unpaved: 5,610 km (2004)
Merchant marine:
total: 10 ships (1000 GRT or over) 124,323 GRT/184,247 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 5, cargo 2, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 2
foreign-owned: 10 (Germany 3, Greece 6, Italy 1) (2006)
Ports and terminals:
Kingston, Port Esquivel, Port Kaiser, Port Rhoades, Rocky Point
Military Jamaica
Military branches:
Jamaica Defense Force: Ground Forces, Coast Guard, Air Wing
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; younger recruits may be conscripted with parental consent (2001)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 18-49: 592,018
females age 18-49: 616,500 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 18-49: 478,761
females age 18-49: 504,541 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
males age 18-49: 27,923
females age 18-49: 27,889 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$31.17 million (2003 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
0.4% (2003 est.)
Transnational Issues Jamaica
Disputes - international:
Trafficking in persons:
current situation: Jamaica is a source country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and labor; information suggests that women from the Dominican Republic and Eastern Europe are also trafficked to Jamaica for sexual exploitation; women and children are trafficked internally from rural to urban and tourist areas for sexual exploitation; there may also be trafficking for domestic servitude and forced labor
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Jamaica is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List based on the determination that it is making significant efforts to undertake future action
Illicit drugs:
transshipment point for cocaine from South America to North America and Europe; illicit cultivation of cannabis; government has an active manual cannabis eradication program; corruption is a major concern; substantial money-laundering activity; Colombian narcotics traffickers favor Jamaica for illicit financial transactions

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007